I’ve been driving for almost thirty years, but today I took my driving test… AGAIN. This was definitely something I never imagined having to repeat, but here in the US, you have to retake your test, both written and practical, in order to legally drive.
Some things never change – the last minute swotting, sweaty palms and self doubt all came screaming back. But some things have changed since the last time I went through this rite of passage. For starters, there’s an app for learning Illinois driving laws – in the end, I took the online test so many times, it gave up and ran out of questions. Despite the fact that the app kept trying to reassure me by flashing a big green ‘go’ sign at me and sending messages like ‘you’re ready,’ ‘go for it!’ and ‘you have a 98% chance of passing’, I still walked into the the driving centre convinced of failure.
Despite the fact that I’ve only driven here a handful of times and I couldn’t pick out our new car in a line up (um, it’s blue… maybe dark grey?) I needn’t have worried. 100% on the written test and a 15 minute drive (during which the grumpy, silent instructor almost dropped off) and I’d passed. I resisted hugging the instructor – but only just!
The two hours we spent at the test centre gave me plenty of time to people-watch but also, I was really aware that we were being watched too. It quickly became clear that Pete and I were quite the novelty act. The lady who checked our paperwork thought we were a ‘cute couple’ and our relocation manager who was with us commented that as she watched us in the queue she realised that ‘you two really like each other!’ Not bad after 22 years of marriage (although I wonder if we would have liked each other quite so much had one of us passed and the other hadn’t!).
But it was the 85 year-old lady who I talked to whilst waiting for Pete to complete his test that really left an impression. After more than fifty years on the road, she was facing the possible loss of her independence. How scary that must have been. The enormity of this struck me and I silently prayed for her when her number was called. I don’t know if she passed. I didn’t see her again.
I realised that driving is a privilege, one that we shouldn’t take for granted. It gives us freedom and independence. So whilst today wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, I’m left with a real sense of achievement and yet another official piece of paper acknowledging my life here in America. I’ve passed the test… next stop, Route 66!